I've heard this "proclamation" from several of our clients recently and after the appropriate amount of "yeah, I know it's tough out there", have responded with the following questions:
How much control do you have over the economy?
Have you made a decision that you are willing to accept that excuse?
When your client tells you "the economy is killing our business" how do you respond?
The answer to the first question is "none"... unless of course you happen to be related to Warren Buffet! The economy "is what it is" and it's always interesting to see how many people are willing to blame the economy when "things are bad" but never think of giving the economy credit when "things are good". If there is something you can do to control the economy "do it". But, since you're not Warren Buffet and there is nothing you can do, "stop talking about it". There is a great phrase which sums this up best:
Give me the ability to recognize the things I can change...
Give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change...
Give me the wisdom to know the difference!
You can't change the economy, so does that mean you've decided to accept this "excuse" and "cry in your soup". Warren Buffet could do that (but he won't, he'll just buy everything in town!) and you could too if you are independently wealthy. If not, you could choose to "tighten your belt" and "ride out the storm". Or, you could make the decision that you can't do anything about the economy but you can make the decision to learn to sell in "tough times" and make the best out of the way things are.
So, how do you respond to "we can't make any changes now or buy anything until the economy gets better". You could say, "fine, I'll give you a call in a couple of months". Or you could recognize that because things are tough, now more than ever is when you need to refocus your energies on how you can help your customer/prospect "thrive" in these difficult times. Try answering with "since things are so difficult now, it is even more important for us to consider if there might be some things we can do to help you control your costs, be more competitive or function more efficiently".
This response looks at the problem through a different lens. Rather than agree and give up, take the challenge to work with your prospects/customers to make them more successful. It all starts with how you think... you need to think of tough economic times as an opportunity to get prospects and customers to look at new options. Given their own sense of "uncertainty" many of them will be more willing now to look at other alternatives. Approach them from the perspective of:
Have you decided to accept your circumstances and not make any changes?
Are you looking for new ways to reduce your costs (not just lower your price)?
Would you like to find ways to make your offer to your customers more competitive?
Are you trying to find ways to differentiate your offer in the market so you can "take share" instead of "lose share"?
Would it be important for you to be able to find new business as well as keep the business you
Re-framing the issue from "things are bad we can't do anything" to "things are bad so we need to find ways to make them better" will help you open doors and create new opportunities. It starts with your attitude and the way you "think/perceive" the condition of the economy. Look at it as an "opportunity to grow" rather than "an excuse to suffer". In fact, this might just be the best time to get into those accounts that will never see you!
Action Step: Think of all the ways you can help your customer/prospect to be more competitive, lower their costs and succeed in their business. Answer those questions and the success of your business will be secure!